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FDR Barnesville Address, August 11, 1938

Address of the President
Barnesville, Georgia
Thursday, August 11, 1938


I am glad to come back to Barnesville and the next time I come to Georgia I hope you will have a good road between here and Warm Springs. Although I have been here before, today is the first time that I learned that Dick Russell came here to college and I must say that it must be a pretty good college.

Fourteen years ago a democratic Yankee, a comparatively young man, came to a neighboring county in (your) the State of Georgia, came in search of a pool of warm water wherein he might swim his way back to health, and he found it. The place—Warm Springs—was at that time a rather dilapidated small summer resort. But his new neighbors there extended to him the hand of genuine hospitality, welcomed him to their firesides and made him feel so much at home that he built himself a house, bought himself a farm and has been coming back ever since. (Applause) (And) Yes, he proposes to keep to that good custom. I intend (to keep on) coming back very often. (Applause)

In those days, there was only one discordant note in that first stay of mine at Warm Springs: When the first of the month bill came in for electric light (for) in my little cottage I found that the charge was eighteen centers (per) a kilowatt hour—about four times as much as I (paid in) was paying in another community, Hyde Park, New York. And that light bill started my long study of proper public utility charges for electric current, (and) started in my mind the whole subject of getting electricity into farm homes throughout the United States.

And so, my friends, it can be said with a good deal of truth that a little cottage at Warm Springs, Georgia, was the birthplace of the Rural Electrification Administration. Six years ago, in 1932, there was such talk (of) about the more widespread and the cheaper use of electricity, but it is only since March 4, 1933, that your Government has reduced that talk to practical results. Yes, electricity is a modern necessity of life (and) not a luxury. That necessity ought to be found in every village, in every home and on every farm in every part of the wide United States. The dedication of this Rural Electrification Administration project in Georgia today is a symbol of the progress we are making—and, my friends, we are not going to stop. (Applause)

As you know, when I want to go somewhere I generally try to choose the most direct route but I slipped up this time. I wanted to come to Georgia, but I had to come via California, the Galapagos Islands, the Equator, the Panama Canal and Pensacola. But, before I left on that trip about (one) a month ago, I invited a group of distinguished, broad-minded Southerners to meet in Washington to discuss the economic conditions, the problems of the South. And, when they met I said this to them:

“My intimate interest in all that concerns the South is, I believe, known to all of you; but this interest is far more than a sentimental attachment born of a considerable residence in your section and of close personal friendship for so many of your people. It proceeds even more from my feeling of responsibility toward the whole Nation. It is my conviction that the South presents right now, in 1938, the Nation’s No. 1 economic problem—the Nation’s problem, not merely the South’s. For we have an economic unbalance in the Nation as whole, due to his very condition (of) in the South itself.

“It is an unbalance that can and must be righted, righted for the sake of the South and of the Nation.” (Applause)

The day before yesterday when I landed in Florida I received the report and the recommendations based on (their) the advice of this distinguished commission (—and these will be made public in the course of the next day or two. I commend a careful reading of this document to all of you.) This report and the recommendations will be made public in the course of the next day or two and I hope you will read it.

It is well said that this report “presents in only a small degree the manifold assets and advantages possessed by the South” because the report is concerned primarily not with boasting about what the South has but in telling (with) what the South needs. It is a short report divided into fifteen short sections and it covers in a broad way subjects of vital importance, such as economic resources, soil, water, population, private and public income, education, health, housing, labor, ownership and use of land, credit, use of natural resources, industry and purchasing power.

I am listing those fifteen headings with a definite purpose in mind. The very fact that it is necessary to divide the economic needs of the South into fifteen important groups—each one a problem in itself—proves to you and to me that if you and I are to cover ground effectively there is no one single simple answer. It is true that many obvious needs ought to be attained quickly—such as the reduction of discriminatory freight rates (applause), such as putting a definite floor under industrial wages (applause), such as continuing to raise the purchasing power of the farm population. (Applause) But, my friends, no one of these things alone, no combination of a few of them will meet the whole of the problem. Talking in fighting terms, we cannot capture one hill and claim to have won the battle because the battle front extends over thousands of miles and we must push forward along the whole (length of its) front at the same time.

That is why the longer I live the more am I convinced that there are two types of political leadership which are dangerous to the continuation of broad economic and social progress all along (the) that long battlefront. The first type of political leadership which is dangerous to progress is represented by the man who harps on one or two remedies or proposals and claims that these one or two remedies will cure all our ills. It just does not make sense. And the other type of dangerous leadership is represented by the man who says that he is in favor of progress but whose record shows that he hinders or hampers or tries to kill new measures of progress. He is that type of political header who (He) tells his friends that he does like this or that or the other detail and, at the same time, he utterly fails to offer a substitute that is practical or worthwhile.

The task of meeting the economic and social needs of the South, on the broad front that is absolutely necessary, calls for public servants whose hearts are sound, whose heads are sane—whose hands are strong, striving everlastingly to better the lot of their fellowmen. (Applause)

(This, then, is the) The report which I referred to is a synopsis—a clear listing of the economic and social problems of the Southland. It suggests the many steps that must be taken to solve (the) that problem(s).

Some of these steps, some of them, it is true, can be taken by state governments but you will readily realize that action by the states alone, even if such action on the part of many neighboring states could be simultaneous(ly) and immediate(ly) (obtained) would be wholly inadequate. The very good reason for that is that most of these problems involve interstate relationships, relationships not only between the states of this region but also between each and all of these states and the rest of the Nation.

It is not an attack on the state sovereignty for me to point out that this national aspect of all these problems requires action by the Federal Government in Washington. I do not hesitate to say from a long experience that during the past five years there has been a closer and more effective peacetime cooperation between the Governors of the forty-eight states and the President of the United States than at any other time in our whole national history. (Applause) And I acknowledge my obligation for the splendid cooperation on the part of Governor Rivers of Georgia. (Applause)

You are familiar enough with the processes of Government to know that the Chief Executive cannot take action on national or regional problems unless they have been first translated into Acts of Congress passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives of the United States.

Such action by the Congress, it is equally clear, must be vigorously supported by the Senators and Representatives whose constituents are directly concerned with Southern economics and Southern (social) economic needs. Senators and Congressmen who are not whole-heartedly in sympathy with these needs cannot be expected to give them vigorous support. (Applause)

Translating that into more intimate terms, it means that if the people of the State of Georgia want definite action in the Congress of the United States, they must send to that Congress Senators and Representatives who are willing to stand up and fight—(applause) fight night and day for Federal statutes drawn to meet actual needs—not something (which) that serves merely to gloss over the evils of the moment, gloss them over for the time being, but laws with teeth in them (which) that will go to the root of the problem(s); which remove the inequities, raise the standards and, over a period of years, give constant improvement to the conditions of human life in this State. (Applause)

You, the people of Georgia, in the coming Senatorial primary, for example, have a perfect right to choose any candidate you wish. (Applause) I do not seek to impair that right (applause) and I am not going to impair that right of the people of this State,—but because Georgia has been good enough to call me her adopted son and because for many long years I have regarded (Georgia) this state as my “other state,” I feel no hesitation in telling you what I would do if I could vote here next month. (Applause) And, my friends, I am strengthened in that decision to give you my personal opinion of the coming senatorial primary by the fact that during the past few weeks I have had many requests from distinguished citizens of Georgia—from people high and low—from the Chief Justice of the highest court of Georgia and (from many,) many others.

And let me preface my statement by saying that I have personally known three of the candidates for the United States Senate for many years. All of them have had legislative or executive experience as Government servants. We may therefore justly consider their records and their public utterance—and we can justly, also, seek to determine for ourselves what is their inward point of view in relationship to present and future problems of government.

It has been pointed out by writers and speakers who do not analyze public questions very deeply that in passing through the State of Kentucky a month ago I gave as a reason for the reelection of Senator Barkley that he had had very long and successful service in the Congress of the United States and that his opponent did not have that experience. In Kentucky, there was no clear-cut issue between a liberal on the one side and a died-in-the-wool conservative on the other. (Applause) Neither (gentlemen) of the two principals on his record could be classified as a reactionary; and, therefore, the criterion of experience, especially that of the Majority Leadership of the Senate of the United States, weighed heavily, and properly, in favor of Senator Barkley.

Here in Georgia, however, my old friend, the senior Senator from this State, cannot possibly in my judgment be classified as belonging to the liberal school of thought (applause)—and, therefore, the argument that he has long served in the Senate, I think, falls by the wayside. Here in Georgia the issue is a different one from that in Kentucky. (Applause)

I speak seriously and in the most friendly way in terms of liberal and conservative for the very simple fact, and I am sure you will recognize that on my shoulders rests a responsibility to the people of (this country) the United States. (Twice) In 1932 and again in 1936 I (have been) was chosen Chief Executive with the mandate, the mandate to seek by definite action to correct many evils of the past and of the present; to work for a wider distribution of national income, to improve the conditions of life, especially among those who need it most and, above all, to use every honest effort to keep America in the van of social and economic progress.

To the Congress of the United States I make recommendations—that is all—in most cases recommendations relating to objectives of legislation—leaving it to the Congress to translate the recommendations into law. The majority of the Senate and House have agreed with those objectives and have worked with me and I have worked with them to translate those objectives into action. Some have given “lip service” to some of the objectives but have not raised their little fingers actively to attain the (action itself) objectives themselves. (Applause) Too often these few have listened to the dictatorship of (the) a small minority of individuals and corporations who oppose the objectives themselves. That, my friends, is a real dictatorship (Audience: that is right.) And one (which) that I am glad to say we have been getting away from slowly but surely during the past five years. (Applause) And just as long as I live, as long as I live you will find me fighting against any kind of dictatorship (applause)—especially (that) the kind of dictatorship (which) that has enslaved (millions of our people) many of our fellow citizens for more than half a century.

Now, my friends, what I am about to say will be no news, no startling news to my old friend—and I say it with the utmost sincerity—Senator Walter George. It will be no surprise to him because I have recently had personal correspondence with him and, as a result of it, he fully knows what my views are.

Let me make it clear—let me make something very clear that he is, and I hope always will be, my personal friend. He is beyond question, beyond any possible question, a gentleman and a scholar (applause)—but (so also) there are other gentlemen in the Senate and in the House for whom I have (an) a real affectionate regard but with whom I differ heartily and sincerely on the principles and policies of how the government of the United States (should be directed) ought to be run.

For example, I have had an almost lifelong acquaintance and great personal friendship for people like Senator Hale (of) from the State of Maine, for Representative James Wadsworth of New York and for Minority Leader, Representative Snell. All of these lifelong conservative Republicans are gentlemen and scholars—but they and I learned long ago that our views on public questions were just as wide apart as the (poles) the North Pole and the South.

And, therefore, I repeat that I trust and am confident that Senator George and I will always be good personal friends even though I am impelled to make it clear that on most public questions he and I do not speak the same language. (Applause)

To carry out my responsibility as President, it is clear that if there is to be success in our Government there (should) ought to be cooperation between members of my own party and myself,—cooperation, in other words, within the majority party, between one branch of Government, the Legislative branch, and the executive head of the other branch, which is the Executive. That is one of the essentials of a party form of government. It has been going on in this country for nearly a century and a half. The test is not measured, in the case of an individual, by his every vote on every bill—of course not. The test lies rather in the answer to two questions: first, has the record of the candidate shown, while differing perhaps in details, a constant active fighting attitude in favor of the broad objectives of the party and of (the) Government as they are constituted today and, secondly, does the candidate really, in his heart, deep down in his heart, believe in (the) those objectives? And I regret that in the case of my friend, Senator George, I cannot honestly answer either of these questions in the affirmative. (Applause)

And, my friends, in the case of another candidate in the State of Georgia for the United States Senate—former Governor Talmadge (boos)—I have known him in the State of Georgia for many years. His attitude toward me and toward other members of the Government in 1935 and in 1936 concerns me not at all. (Applause) But, my friends, in those years and in this year I have read so many of his proposals, so many of his promises, so many of his panaceas that I am very certain in my own mind that his election would contribute very little to practical progress in government. And, my friends, that is all that I can say about him.

The third candidate that I would speak of, United States Attorney Lawrence Camp, (applause) I have also known for many years. He has had experience in the State Legislature, he has served as Attorney General of Georgia and for four years he has made a distinguished record in the United States District Court, his office ranking among the first two in the whole (nation) of the United States in the expedition of Federal cases (before) in that Court. I regard him not only as a public servant with successful experience but as a man who honestly believes that many things must be done and done (applause) now to improve the economic (and) improve the social conditions of the country (and), the man who is willing to fight for the objectives. (That) And, my friends, fighting ability is of the utmost importance.

Therefore, answering the requests that have come to me from many leading citizens of Georgia that I make my position clear, I have no hesitation in saying that if I were able to vote in the September primaries in this State, I most assuredly would case my ballot for Lawrence Camp. (Applause)

In dedicating this important project today, I want to express once more my abiding faith that we as a nation are moving steadily and surely toward a better way of living for all of our people. This electrification project is a symbol of our determination to attain that objective. But, my friends, it is only one symbol; it is one hill out of ten thousand which must be captured. You and I will never be satisfied until all our economic inequalities are corrected, until every one of us, North, East, West and South has the opportunity (so) to live, so to live that his education, his job and his home will be secure.

In many countries, in many nations of the world today democracy is under attack by those who charge that democracy fails to provide its people with the needs of modern civilization. I do not—(and) you do not—subscribe to that charge. (We) You and I, we, the people of this State and the people of all the states, believe that democracy today is succeeding but that (a) an absolute necessity for its future success is the fighting spirit of the American people—their insistence that we go forward and not back. (Prolonged applause)

FDR Barnesville Address, August 11, 1938 View large image

FDR on Stage at Barnesville, Georgia

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